High-Risk and Healthy Persons Need Reminder to Be Immunized Before Influenza Hits in January

SWIFTWATER, Pa. -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported sporadic cases of influenza disease in 17 states across the country, and says it's not too late to get vaccinated against influenza. While the influenza season can begin as early as December, typically disease activity does not peak until January through early March. Health officials continue to stress immunization in December and beyond, which will allow time to develop immunity before influenza season strikes.

The CDC urges all health care providers to continue offering influenza vaccine throughout the season to all individuals who are at increased risk of influenza infection, all individuals with close contact to those having a high risk of complications from influenza, and to everyone else wanting to protect themselves against influenza disease.

"The influenza vaccine is important for everyone including those who are at high risk as well as those who are healthy. It's an easy and effective way for healthy people to maintain their lives at work and at home during this busy season," said William Schaffner, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 2001 Aventis Pasteur made a significant capital investment to expand production of its influenza vaccine, Fluzone, Influenza Virus Vaccine, which increased total capacity by 20 percent. Last month, the company announced shipment of over 43 million doses of influenza vaccine to customers. With over 44 million doses of influenza vaccine on the market for the 2002-2003 influenza season, Fluzone vaccine represents the largest volume of influenza vaccine supplied by one manufacturer to the U.S. market. The company is in the process of evaluating a still greater expansion within the next several years to meet growing demand.

In September 2002 Aventis Pasteur received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market Fluzone Preservative-free: Pediatric Dose, Influenza Virus Vaccine. For the first time, physicians will have the option of offering a preservative-free formulation of influenza vaccine to infants aged six to 35 months. The company is still accepting new orders for shipments of Fluzone and Fluzone Preservative-free: Pediatric Dose vaccine. Healthcare providers can order vaccine by logging onto http://www.vaccineshoppe.com/ or calling 1-800-VACCINE (1-800-822-2463)

While the influenza season can begin as early as December, typically influenza activity peaks between January and early March. After vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks for the body to develop protective antibodies against influenza. According to CDC estimates, influenza is associated with more than 20,000 deaths and more than 100,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States.

The most common side effect from influenza vaccine is soreness at the vaccination site that can last up to two days. Some people may have mild fever or feel tired for a day or two after receiving the influenza vaccine.

Influenza vaccine is made from killed strains of the viruses predicted to be the main causes of influenza in the coming season. Because the viruses are killed, it is impossible to contract influenza disease from the vaccine. Last year's vaccine will not offer protection in this year's influenza season. The vaccine changes every year to match the prevalent strains, which is why annual vaccination is necessary.

The only people who should not receive influenza vaccine are those who have had previous allergic reactions to the vaccine or people who are allergic to eggs (the viruses used in the vaccine are grown in eggs). Persons with acute febrile illness usually should not be vaccinated until their symptoms have abated. However, minor illnesses with or without fever do not contraindicate the use of influenza vaccine, particularly among children with mild upper respiratory tract infection or allergic rhinitis.

Fluzone Influenza Virus Vaccine is produced and marketed by Aventis Pasteur Inc., which is located in Swiftwater, Pa., and is a subsidiary of Aventis Pasteur SA. Aventis Pasteur Inc. provides the broadest range of human vaccines and biologicals commercially available from any single U.S. vaccine company. It is a leading supplier of vaccines to protect against influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, meningitis, rabies, and typhoid fever.

Source: PRNewswire